Arizona Thanksgiving Vacation: Part 1

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving this past week! I have not posted anything in the past week because we have been on vacation in Arizona! We got back on Wednesday.

We haven’t been on a week-long vacation like that in about 3 years, so we tried to cram as much as we could into it. My mother-in-law rented a house for all of us – all of us being Josh, our 5 kids, me, Josh’s sister, her husband, their 4 kids, my MIL, and my FIL – to stay in in the Flagstaff area until Sunday. It was a gorgeous house with enough space for everybody. When we were at the house and not out and about, we never saw the kids. They were downstairs playing in the game room.

I was not able to get any pics of the house we stayed in from the outside but here is the link to the rental listing on VRBO.

5 bedroom vacation rental in Flagstaff

Our 3 oldest boys went with my MIL and FIL and 2 of their cousins early last week to the vacation rental. Josh and I followed with our 2  youngest on Wednesday.  My sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and their twins were about 4 hours behind us on Wednesday.

Our 2 youngest were so good on the long trip – about 7 hours. We left Southern California around noon and arrived in Flagstaff around 8 PM Arizona time. I didn’t get many good pictures during the drive there. Also, I didn’t realize how dirty our windows are!


Sunset during our drive through the Arizona desert

The first thing we noticed when we got there was how COLD it was! It was probably 20 degrees outside! Fortunately, the house had a heater that worked great. I know I am a big wimp when it comes to the cold. I’m too much of a California girl.

For Thanksgiving breakfast/brunch the next morning, we had a Star Wars breakfast. The Yoda pancakes turned out looking more like puppies! There were also Chewbacca hashbrowns but I wasn’t able to get pictures of those. There isn’t much opportunity for pictures when feeding 9 children!

I also got zero pictures of Thanksgiving dinner, but it tasted great. We had our Thanksgiving dinner around 5, which actually made for a really relaxing time for my MIL, my SIL, and me. We weren’t rushing to get the food done by noon.

I was able to make my SIL’s incredible chocolate truffle pie.  Here is a link to the recipe she uses: Rich Chocolate Truffle Pie

Our sightseeing adventures would take up too much of this post so I will write about those separately. We also visited a few restaurants so I will probably post about those as well.

The day after we got home I was planning on staying out of the kitchen and not baking. After all, we had just spent a week on vacation and most of it we had spent eating too much food. But of course, I couldn’t stay out of the kitchen. So I ended up making lemon-cardamom cream cheese muffins.


The original recipe is from Your Homebased Mom. I changed it quite a bit though so I’m going to go ahead and rewrite it for this post.

To me, cardamom is a strong spice, so I only used 1/4 teaspoon of it in the batter.

Lemon-Cardamom Cream Cheese Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Print



  • 3 Cups flour
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2/3 Cup milk
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 Cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 Cup sugar


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 Cup butter, softened


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Combine 1 cup of sugar and the zest of the lemon in a large bowl. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers. Mix in the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom.

In a medium bowl, stir together the milk, oil, eggs, and the juice of half a lemon. Stir the milk and egg mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.

Using a mixer, beat together the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy. Gently mix half of the cream cheese mixture into the muffin batter.

Fill the muffin tins 1/2 to 2/3 full with the muffin batter. Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture onto the muffins and press the mixture into each muffin with the back of a spoon.

For the streusel topping, combine the flour and sugar together. Cut the 1/4 cup butter into the flour mixture. Sprinkle the topping over each muffin.

Bake 24 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

A few notes:

Yes, it’s yet another lemon recipe!

These muffins baked up quite high for me. In fact, I ended up filling my muffin tins very close to the top, which is why they baked up so high. My kids loved the muffin tops though so this worked out well. Next time, I will use two muffin tins and see how that works with the rise.

My cream cheese filling ended up staying on top of the muffin instead of falling into the middle. I’m not sure why but I know my kids did not mind this. I think this might be part of the reason that they liked the tops of these muffins best.


I did reduce the sugar in the cream cheese filling and the streusel. I probably could have reduced it even more but I did want my kids to eat them. I might try to use a stevia/sugar blend in the batter next time I make these.

I added a splash of vanilla extract during the wet mixture process. Probably about a 1/2 teaspoon. Since I did not measure it, I didn’t want to add it to the recipe.




Breakfast and Tea Cakes

I took a little bit of a break from baking anything new for a week. So that is why I haven’t posted for a while! I am also without my two oldest minions (sons 🙂 this week who help me out around the house. Josh has been doing a good job though of taking over their jobs in addition to all the other things he does for me. I think I might keep him!

My kids were getting a little bored of breakfast cereal, (and I was too!  I am not a big cereal person, mostly because I can’t drink milk) so on Monday, I baked up some Lemon Crumb Muffins.

The recipe makes a large batch though, so I halved it so that it would work better for the 5 (currently) of us.

My attempt at food photography. It didn't turn out quite the way I wanted.
My attempt at food photography. It didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted. I was in a bit of a rush though so I couldn’t retake.
The best part of these muffins is the streusel!
The best part of these muffins is the streusel!

I think it has been at least a year since I’ve made these muffins. I really should make them more often since we have a lemon tree in the backyard!

I was going to try and make lemon cream on Monday too but I ran out of time. Lemon cream isn’t something that can be made quickly and does require a bit of planning. I might have to put that off until next week. Lemon cream is a lot like lemon curd but it is… creamier.

The recipe for lemon cream comes from Dorie Greenspan. Lemon cream does take a bit of work, but it is well worth it to us since Josh and I are a bit addicted to lemon curd.

Today’s bake was raspberry tea cakes. To go with our tea.

We have been drinking a lot of tea lately because of a recent electric kettle purchase. Before I go on, there IS a difference between boiling water in the microwave and boiling it in a kettle when you make tea! It is hard to explain but it seems like the water boiled in a kettle “holds” the heat longer than the water boiled in the microwave. Actually, this would be an interesting science experiment for homeschooling…

I have  a certain cookie cookbook that I pull out every year around Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s the Southern Living Christmas Cookies cookbook from 2002. Quite a few of my favorite Christmas cookies are in this book: wedding cookies, gingerbread, lemon bars. This recipe for royal raspberry tea cakes was in that book.

The dough was a little bit sticky, and the best thing about this recipe - no eggs!
The dough was a little bit sticky, and the best thing about this recipe – no eggs!
After baking. I was so so glad that the raspberry preserves didn't melt and run off the sides of the cookie. I am thinking that this is because the cookie baked up around the jam before it could melt.
After baking. I was so so glad that the raspberry preserves didn’t melt and run off the sides of the cookie. I am thinking that this is because the cake baked up around the jam before it could melt.
The preserves I used. The cocoa is subtle and not overpowering.
The preserves I used. The cocoa is subtle and not overpowering.

I thought the tea cakes were a little bit plain-looking this way so I mixed up a quick confectioner’s sugar glaze to drizzle on top. My drizzling wasn’t very good though so alas, I didn’t take pictures of it. The cookies taste good either way.

I have been having trouble staying away from these cute little cookies so I think had better stay out of the kitchen for a little while.

Josh and I are watching a new season of The Great British Bake-off and now Josh has come up with a fabulous idea for a date night at home. He was saying that we should find a recipe used on the show and try to make it together. I think we might do this with earl grey tea biscuits. It probably won’t be a recipe that was used on the show but the idea to make them is inspired by the show.

I’ve always wanted us to bake or cook something special together in the kitchen after the kids are in bed. Yes, it might make a mess and it might not turn out right, but that is part of the fun, right? 🙂